Pint of Blood

Jolie Holland

Not long ago, Jolie Holland demonstrated an amazing talent. But now she seems to prefer to meander in relatively stark settings. It’s not that her newest is bland — there’s a surface of serviceable music, but Holland’s not leaving many clues to entice listeners to open up their ears for all that’s here. One exception: “All Those Girls” lyrically prods at a couple in mutual accusation — Holland showing no fear of digging into intimate dirt, and the recording gets a powerful counterpoint from especially dirty fuzz guitar. It’s a strong song that overcomes the frequent challenge posed by the singer-songwriter’s vocal affectations. (She can swallow sweet or bittersweet rounded notes in the most unexpected places.) As the set plays out, delightful or scorching performance elements salvage some enjoyment for song after song … but many listeners will eventually wonder why they have to work so hard when this artist is capable of devastating moments, such as when the chamber-folk miniature “Wreckage” is swept away by a wonderfully breezy “Little Birds.”